Start of a Good series,
This review is from: The Real Story: The Gap into Conflict (Paperback)One way to distinguish between good and bad authors is to examine the breadth of their career. Lesser authors often do one thing and then repeat themselves endlessly. Truly great authors take on a variety of projects, challenging themselves by seeking out new stories. Like most people, I was first introduced to Stephen R. Donaldson by the first Thomas Covenant trilogy, and I sort of expected "The Real Story" to be something similar only this time in a science fiction setting. Was I ever proven wrong. This little novel is a completely different animal, one that tackles different issues than the Thomas Covenant books and uses different strategies.
The story takes place at some point in the future in DelSec, a region of space where police hired by the United Mining Company exercise only limited control. The events described on the jacket cover all take place within the first few pages; the majority of the book is spent returning and going over those events once again from the perspective of one character, thus letting us actually understand motivations and details. One notable aspect of the story is the incredibly fast pacing, with at least one new twist arriving every ten pages. In contrast to the Covenant series, "The Real Story" uses direct and unsophisticated language, quite appropriate for the direct and intense emotions that dominate the story.
Character, of course, is at the heart of any great novel. Friends have complained that they can't understand the behavior of Donaldson's characters, and the above Publisher's Weekly review insists that they act irrationally. They're right. Real human beings, needless to say, are irrational and frequently difficult to understand. Donaldson has obviously studied our species carefully, and noted the ways in which guilt and fear play out inside people's heads. There are occasions in "The Real Story" where characters act counterintuitively, just as in real life, but there's always an explanation for it if you look carefully enough.
I cannot crown "The Real Story" as the greatest science fiction novel of all time. It has some odd lapses in common sense. For instance, one character sneaks into an enemy spaceship from the outside. Has this futuristic society somehow forgotten the concept of locked doors? More significantly, it fails to build up that amazing force that you find at the endings of each book in the Covenant trilogy, and it isn't as compulsively readable. However, I can still recommend this book highly, and praise the authors for trying his hardest to break free from conventions in a world where cliché and formula often rule the day.